'Earthly justice': Rudd gets 75-150 years for killing 19-year-old bride
One day shy of the 45th anniversary of the death of 19-year-old Noreen Kumeta along a lonely road in Barrington Hills, her husband Donnie Rudd was sentenced to 75 to 150 years in prison for her murder.
The sentence is likely to confine Rudd, 76, formerly of Hoffman Estates, to prison for the rest of his life.
"I hope every killer who's out there and has yet to be caught looks at this case and knows they can never stop looking over their shoulder and waiting for that knock on the door," Cook County assistant state's attorney Maria McCarthy said after Judge Marc Martin handed down the sentence late Thursday.
Rudd, whom Martin described as "diabolical," got away with murder for nearly half a century.
Authorities at the time bought his story that another driver ran his car off the road in Barrington Hills on Sept. 14, 1973, and that Kumeta, whom he had married 27 days earlier, was thrown from the car, struck her head on a rock, and died.
But new findings after Kumeta's body was exhumed as part of the investigation into another unsolved death led to murder charges against Rudd, who was disbarred in 1994 for fraud and unlawful conduct.
"This was not a crime of passion," said Martin at the end of a lengthy court hearing. "This was cold, cunning, calculated, violent and motivated by greed."
Sentenced under 1973 laws, Rudd will be eligible for parole after 11 years and three months.
According to prosecutors Rudd met Kumeta, his second wife, when they both worked at Quaker Oats in Barrington. Rudd, who was involved with another woman, married Kumeta after a whirlwind courtship. Weeks later, he killed her for $120,000 in insurance payouts, prosecutors said.
Kumeta's sisters Donna Haggerton and Karen Mezera initially believed Rudd's story about the car crash, but say doubts eventually surfaced and were confirmed in 2013, when authorities exhumed Kumeta's body as they investigated the 1991 unsolved murder of one of Rudd's clients in Arlington Heights.
DuPage County forensic pathologist Dr. Hilary McElligott subsequently ruled Kumeta's death a homicide and police arrested Rudd, then living in Sugar Land, Texas, in December 2015.
In her emotional victim statement Mezera described losing Kumeta as pain "beyond all comprehension."
The last time she heard her sister's voice was 45 years ago Thursday, when Kumeta called to wish Mezera happy birthday.
"We were denied the opportunity to grow old together," said Mezera, who recalled the betrayal she and her family felt upon learning Rudd had murdered her sister, a loving young woman with "so much to live for."
Mezera thanked the prosecutors, police officers and others who "gave Noreen her voice during the trial."
She also singled out Stephanie Tabak and her brother Peter saying, "if it weren't for their tenacity, we would not be here."
Stephanie and Peter are the children of interior designer and former Rudd client Loretta Tabak-Bodtke, who was found with four gunshot wounds to the head on April 4, 1991, in her Arlington Heights townhouse.
Rudd, who had represented Tabak-Bodtke in a business dispute around that time, remains a suspect in that murder but was never charged.
Authorities say Rudd claimed he won Tabak-Bodtke's case and promised to deposit $450,000 into her account but never did so. Four current and former Arlington Heights detectives testified that Tabak-Bodtke's husband and friends told them she did not trust Rudd and intended to report him to state authorities, who had received complaints about him from other clients.
The officers also recalled statements from then-neighbors, several of whom are deceased, who recalled seeing Rudd's white car with the license plate "Mr. Condo" at Tabak-Bodtke's home the day of her murder.
Although Martin declined to consider Tabak-Bodtke's murder as an aggravating factor in sentencing Rudd, Stephanie Tabak says she is happy Rudd is going to prison.
"I'm very happy for Noreen's family," said Tabak, who wept openly during Mezera's testimony, "but I wish they would have charged him with my mother's murder."
"His whole life has been a lie," said Tabak. "He's nothing but a con man."
Tabak, like McCarthy, credited Arlington Heights police, particularly Miquel Hernandez and Richard Sperando, for their pursuit of Rudd for the last 27 years.
Rudd maintained his innocence during Thursday's hearing.
"I have done nothing wrong," said Rudd, who has been diagnosed with colon cancer. "I've not done anything I'm ashamed of."
Rudd's attorney Timothy Grace expressed disappointment in the sentence but said Martin "gave us a fair trial." Grace indicated he has filed an appeal.
"Donnie Rudd is a rare kind of criminal," McCarthy said. "We rarely see a true sociopath -- someone with absolutely no conscience, someone with no sense of remorse."
As for Mezera, she and her sister Donna Haggerton will try to find it in their hearts to forgive their sister's killer.
"As a Christian, that's what I'm supposed to do," Mezera said. "One day, he'll receive heavenly justice. Today is the day Donnie receives earthly justice."